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Chester County Press

Editorial: Degrees in fairness and opportunity

01/30/2023 10:01AM ● By Richard Gaw

In the recent history of the modern American employment system, perhaps one of the largest fallacies that continues to be thrust in the face of the working sector is that a candidate with a college degree is more qualified for a position than an applicant without a college degree.

While specialized areas of the job sector will always require a college degree, there are three times as many jobs where the key needs for employment are that certain requirements are met, such as that the candidate possesses a proven track record of experience, professionalism, reliability and talent.

Over and over, however, those without a college degree need not apply – minorities, those from low- or middle-class backgrounds who cannot afford the high cost of a higher education. It is a practice that is not only humiliating but devaluing to nearly half of American adults.

Meanwhile, the college graduate who spends two, four, six and even eight years in the hallowed halls of higher education automatically gets moved to the front of the line. It sets forth the discriminatory decree that proclaims that what is learned in a classroom is a better determinant of qualification than practical, on-the-job experience.

Last week, Pennsylvania set out to change that forever.

In his first act as the new Governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro passed Executive Order No. 2023-03, declaring that 92 percent of state jobs – about 65,000 jobs – will be eligible to those without a college degree. As the commonwealth works to combat a worker shortage, a puttering economy and a tight labor environment, news of this executive order sends forth a message that the doors of possibility – once open to those who have been fortunate enough to hold a college degree – are now open for everyone.

“We’ve got to begin changing the way we think about filling those jobs,” Shapiro said. “We’ve got to begin to make sure people recognize that they’re qualified for those jobs and that we want them to do that work.

“Every Pennsylvanian should have the freedom to chart their own course and have a real opportunity to succeed. They should get to decide what's best for them—whether they want to go to college or straight into the workforce—not have that decided for them.”

A college degree should never have been – and should never be -- a required prerequisite for being allowed to fully participate in the American job sector. It is this newspaper’s hope that other states follow the recent example set by Gov. Shapiro and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.